June 16th, 2011
Branding: When Good Guys Go Bad

Take one young mother struggling to pay her son’s school fees, a lucrative casino (is there any other kind?) and a tattoo parlour. The result: ‘GoldenPalace.com’ tattooed across said mum’s forehead for the princely sum of $15,000 (roughly £9244.50). Check it out here: http://j.mp/maGWOG

GoldenPalace.com undoubtedly gained some global attention from this stunt: some might argue that the tattooed woman was mad to agree to it; others would argue she was manipulated by a global brand. Either way, it seems a tad unethical. A bit like a US confectionary brand we’ve been reading a lot about over the last year or so…

We love chocolate. But it’s fair to say that the actions of Kraft’s Irene Rosenfeld have made us think twice about where we want our Stripey pound to end up.

Rosenfeld, who Forbes names as the second most powerful woman in the world, led the hostile takeover of Cadburys in 2010. Since then, and despite promises to the contrary, hundreds of Cadburys workers have been made redundant, with talk of manufacturing plants moving abroad.

Rosenfeld has repeatedly snubbed requests to appear before British MP’s to answer questions about why she backtracked on her assurances. Now, those MP’s are pushing through legislation to prevent similar takeovers happening again.

Perhaps the saddest part of the Kraft debacle is that Cadburys, a unique piece of British history, is systemically being dismantled by a superbrand with little regard to its historical and cultural significance. Not only that but rumour has it Kraft also aims to tamper with the sacred recipes of our beloved Cadbury’s chocolate! Thanks to Rosenfeld, the Kraft brand is certainly leaving a bad taste in a few mouths, and they’re not the only ones.

Take the fashion industry for example. In particular Nike, which certainly hasn’t escaped the spotlight in previous years. Having admitted to using child labour in the past, Nike has, according to The Global Alliance ‘acted in good faith, and developed a serious and reasonable remediation plan’. Although not every quarter is convinced, it’s clear to see they’ve made an effort to change.

WWF however, were so disturbed by the unethical activities of other fashion brands that they came up with a novel idea to counteract it.

In 2007, WWF undertook a study of businesses and their ethics, with some shocking results. Right at the bottom of the list was Tod’s, a luxury Italian leather company, who scored the lowest marks across every aspect of the survey. Another surprising report arose from Garnier, who were found guilty of racial discrimination after attempting to ban non-white women from promoting its shampoo in French stores.

WWF, after realising the power of celebrity endorsement behind these big brands, came up with the great idea of a ‘star charter’. The charter encourages celebrities to consider the ethics of the firms they endorse. And if the success of PETA is anything to go by, then the ‘star charter’ for big brands could be the one to watch. That’s assuming that the stars endorsing the brands are ethical themselves…

Maybe the real question is not how good or bad brands are, but whether their ethics make any difference whatsoever to their popularity. And if it doesn’t, what does that say about us as consumers?

Interested in reading more? Take a look at these articles:

http://j.mp/lW9TU9
http://j.mp/miCKbg
http://j.mp/mnm86M

http://j.mp/l73XhG

 

June 9th, 2011
Crafty Branding

Craft: A word that might once have conjured up images of frilly pillows, scrapbooks and cross-stitched cats playing with balls of wool. But, as we recently learnt, not anymore.

Thanks to the Birmingham based charity Craftspace, we’ve spent the last five weeks working with a brand new social enterprise called Shelanu. Designing their branding package with a logo, website and marketing materials meant we were lucky enough to watch their delicately handmade jewellery take shape, which is special in itself. But what makes this group really important is the people who belong to it.

The enterprise is made up of migrant and refugee women. Together, they’re a diverse cultural collective, creating intricate, ornate jewellery inspired by their experiences in Birmingham. To celebrate and share that creativity, Shelanu is exhibiting at the prestigious Bovey Tracy Craft Fair at the end of this week. And with these guys, Bovey Tracy better watch out! Not only are they a talented group, they’re also vibrant, energetic and fun loving – all the qualities apparent in their sparkling jewellery design.

We think you’ll be seeing a lot more from Shelanu – check out their website for more information at www.shelanucollective.co.uk. And if you’re interested in learning about more up and coming craft projects take a look at www.craftspace.co.uk. They’re one of the few charities that have succeeded in winning Arts Council funding and they’re not wasting time in putting it to good use.

 

June 8th, 2011
Superbrands: It’s a Battle of Hearts of Minds

Lately, we seem to be hearing a lot about brands being a bit like religions: Apple store openings have been likened to evangelical prayer meetings. And only recently we learnt that our brains recognise our favourite brands the same way we recognise close friends and relatives.

So if brands are becoming such an integral part of how we function as human beings, what exactly are these superbrands doing to achieve this?  Alex Riley is the man with the answers, as he goes on the trail of the world’s biggest brands and comes up with some fascinating insights.

Perhaps most obviously, the one thing superbrands seem to have in common is longevity. But that aside, the forefathers of these global brands display a startling ability to market their businesses at a time when even the term ‘marketing’ had yet to be coined. Their brand strategies were way ahead and whether you’re a big fan of fast food and soft drinks or a fully fledged fruitarian – 1.5billion servings of Coke a day can’t be wrong.

Riley’s documentary also surprisingly illustrates what a pivotal time for developing brand loyalty World War II was: Heinz became known as an affordable and nutritious staple food during rationing while Coke shipped its bottles to troops overseas for a dime a bottle.

Then there’s Red Bull, which is one of the most unique branding models around. Forget sponsorship – Red Bull weren’t playing second fiddle to anyone. They own their own sporting teams for Formula 1, they also own Salzburg football team and even invented the now famous Red Bull Air Races.

They’re all impressive examples. But ethical? That’s for you to decide. With Coke aiming to double their marketing share by targeting teenagers, and Red Bull erasing the historical culture of their football team, some might argue that they’re ruthless industry machines. But then business ethics are a whole different blog post…

If you didn’t catch it the first time, check out Alex Riley’s ‘Secrets of the Superbrands’ here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b011fjbp

 

June 6th, 2011
Apple Loves Dieter Rams

You’d be forgiven for not knowing firsthand who Dieter Rams is. But with Apple about to make an announcement on its latest designs, it’s clear he has a very important fan: someone who put the queues outside Apple stores and created the kind of brand loyalty that makes their openings seem like evangelical congregations.

Who is this fan? Jony Ive, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Industrial Design.

For Ive, Rams is a huge inspiration, remaining “utterly alone in producing a body of work so consistently beautiful, so right and so accessible”. Coming from the heady pantheons of Apple’s elite, that’s praise indeed. But what exactly did Dieter Rams do to deserve such praise?

Best known for his range of Braun gadgets, Rams creates “bold, pure, perfectly-proportioned, coherent and effortless” product design, according to Jony Ives. Product design that is “perfectly considered and completely appropriate”. Now, as the subject of a new book, Rams writes for the first time about Apple – one of the few companies that, in his words, understands ‘the power of good design’.

Interestingly, Rams believes that such success is borne out of a close relationship between entrepreneur and head of design – something he experienced at Braun and that Jony Ive has with Steve Jobs. For the creative industries, this is a valuable insight – the best projects are always the ones that grow from long term relationships, with mutual respect and understanding of long term goals.

A lone voice with its unique product design, Apple’s success is likened by Rams to the ration queues experienced during World War II. And with new products on the way, we’d better prepare for the peal of those sirens.

Check out this link for the original article: http://j.mp/mSrp4d

 

May 25th, 2011
Super Brands!

BBC Three aired another installment of Secrets of the Superbrands last night. With some fascinating insights into how fashion brands get us to buy their clothes.

Nike for instance, spends a whopping £1.8bn per year marketing what is already a genuine ‘superbrand’.

Then there’s Adidas, whose Gary Aspden (their global head of entertainment promotions) seems to have singlehandedly created incredible brand loyalty. How? By giving free stuff to upcoming “grime” stars who, now they’ve made it big, legitimately promote Adidas to the younger generation and wider fanbase.

Perhaps more significant were the findings of Professor Gemma Calvert of Neurosense.

It’s well known that great branding triggers emotive responses, but Calvert’s results went one step further. Her research entailed monitoring neurological reactions to cheap handbags versus expensive ones, with some interesting results.

Calvert showed that while cheap brands elicited no response, expensive brands triggered feelings associated with ‘reward, craving and addiction’ – all the activities found in the ‘pleasure centre’ of the brain.

Why is this significant? Because owning such objects sends a signal to others that we are genetically superior – we have accumulated enough material wealth to lavish thousands on high end fashion brands.

It’s not all smooth sailing for these super-brands though. Nike still finds itself fending off questions about their use of child labour in poor countries, while Burberry was forced to re-launch after its well recognised check pattern became mainstream for the masses.

Check out the article in full here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13502371

 

May 23rd, 2011
Top Five Tips to getting the most from your website…

We’ve been pretty busy here at Stripeyhorse Creative, creating a branding package for an exciting new social enterprise and helping some Birmingham-based charities with their online marketing and print design. But we still found time to enjoy the Royal Wedding!

We also decided to put together some handy hints to help you dust the cobwebs from your online presence. Check whether you’re at the head of the pack, with the following top tips!

Image

The average user spends 7 seconds on your home page before clicking away. With such a short amount of time, it’s important to make sure your website creates a fantastic impression! Don’t be afraid of being bright, bold and different. More importantly, differentiate yourself from the competition!

Layout

How’s your website looking at a glance – is everything in the right place? An attractive, aesthetic layout means your site is easy on the eye and inviting. Combine colour, font and copy to create a dynamic user experience. And if you can help it, avoid pop up banners or too much flash – they’ll make your users click away in the blink of an eye!

Navigation

Make sure your site creates a great experience by maintaining excellent functionality. Have a visible, accessible navigation bar. Once you’ve succeeded in driving traffic to your site, don’t lose at the last hurdle because of broken links! These simple techniques will mean users can navigate your site with ease, paying attention to everything you offer!

Copywriting

Think about how the way you sound helps you connect with your target market. Is your tone of voice conversational or corporate? Which do you think users will respond most positively to? And always double check your spelling and grammar, especially on your home page!

Have a Blog!

Putting interesting articles or images on your blog will stimulate interest and help to drive traffic to your site! Linking your blog to other forms of social media will also help raise awareness and visibility. Incorporating keywords will aid organic SEO! In a nutshell, blogging is a supertool for your website!

Remember, your website should work as a tool, helping your business grow and become more profitable. If you have any questions give us a call or drop us an email.

Watch out for more juicy tips in our next blog, where we’ll be giving you advice to make sure your website is working as hard as it can for you and your business, from behind-the-scenes!